Ten Simple Songs

for Rachel


The long A of your name
had sounded in my ear for years.
I looked for you in leaves
& found you among needles.
I looked for you on foot
& found you among the bees,
golden with the dust
of unseen blooms.


My parachute knapsack
held only paper
& instructions in several languages
for folding origami wings.
I even had to supply
my own shadow
for a welcoming committee.
That’s what it was like
being alone.


While others were playing house
I was playing hermitage.
Trains blew their whistles
by day & by night.
You were in Africa,
waking to the music
of car horns & hornbills.
Had I tuned into the World Service
in the wee hours,
I might’ve heard your stories
about the fall
of that dictator from Malawi
whose last name so resembled my own.


When we first became acquainted,
you were living
next door to that Dorothy
who disappeared into a tornado.
Your own witch was dead
but not by much.
I wrote you a poem because
I don’t believe in spells or prayers;
it was all I had.


In the first photo I saw,
you were frowning & looking down,
unruly hair the color
of petals on a sunflower.
You were barely there.
But through medication
& meditation
you turned
slowly toward the light.


The first time we met in the flesh
you were a flash
of bright laughter
at the end of the table
where we all convened for coffee
in Montreal.
Two years later, in Brooklyn,
you glowed with secret knowledge
& stretched like a cat
in the dog-day heat.


Three years after that, I was
a guest in your London home,
though like a tortoise
I brought my own
sturdy carapace.
Your house buzzed with
so much activity, both
joyful & clamorous, that soon
my shell began to hum.


Now our words & likenesses
fly through fiber-
optic cables under
the Atlantic. They must
pass each other
without knowing it,
deformed as they are
into carrier waves,
broken as they are
into pulses of light—
enough to build an entire
lost continent.


From time to time
there’s a high-
pitched chirping
& you say
it must be from the slime-eels
nibbling on the cable
& tying their unbearably
slick bodies
into knots.


We’ve been meeting in
this disembodied place
the world-wide web
so long, levitating
like Himalayan lamas,
it’s tempting to wonder whether
we even need the ground.
Don’t the Irish say
the road will rise up
to meet us?
Let’s drink to that,
each raising our part
of the universal solution
so our glasses belly
up to our webcams
for the clink,
each blocking our view
of the other’s eyes—a pale
or stout substitute
for those blues.

17 Replies to “Ten Simple Songs”

  1. You’ve got me intrigued about Rachel and that’s the whole point of writing: arousal of curiousity. Good songs.

  2. This is beautiful, Dave. (Ah, and I remember being there at the end of that table in Montreal on the other side of R, snorting with laughter!) So happy for you guys. :-)

  3. What a very wonderful story (and in fact something of a satisfying of curiosity!), which can only bring great joy for any who know you, both or either, on-line or off.

  4. I love this, Dave. And love it more for knowing nothing about the context: in that powerful magic of specificity, the unshared particulars allow me to move closer to my own histories. And the emotional presence of it resonates in a way that summons my own. So in the end, not just a bridge, but several bridges. This is what poems should do, sez me. Thanks.

    1. “in that powerful magic of specificity, the unshared particulars allow me to move closer to my own histories.” That’s very gratifying to hear. I was consciously working against that kind of praise poem so beloved of mid-20th century poets in which the beloved is elevated into a being of cosmic significance, but in the process most of the things that make her loveable and unique are lost. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. I don’t know how I missed this when you originally posted it, but it’s stunning, Dave. Holy wow.

    I especially love parts 1 and 2. (And there’s a certain pleasure in reading 6, since the moments you describe there are also the only times I’ve ever been physically co-present with either of y’all.)

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